(April 24) For those of us who for weeks have been looking to the NFL draft as a desperately needed diversion from coronavirus news, Thursday’s opening minutes of the draft program were a perfect tonic.

The NFL institutionally often is crass and overbearing, with Super Bowls in particular prone to hype, glitz, and trashiness. But, every so often, it gets the zeitgeist right, and Thursday’s opening segments certainly did so.

It began with a voice-over by the endlessly likable Peyton Manning, who has great credibility as a public-spirited athlete, talking about how the public is finding the best in its response to the current pandemic. It featured a surprise appearance by the nation’s newest unifying figure, Dr. Anthony Fauci, talking about how games such as football can serve as psychological pick-me-ups and give us hope that we can get back to normal.

Then came the national anthem, done in a classy, soulful way by Harry Connick Jr., playing his own piano accompaniment in sweet, understated tones as he crooned, rather than blasted out, the lyrics.

And, for a nice little comic touch from an unexpected source, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, standing in front of a bank of televisions featuring live shots of fans from their own homes, made self-deprecating jokes about missing the boo birds who usually greet him on draft night….

[The rest of this column is here. But we interrupt it to say that while I do NOT like the way the Saints always trade up, rather than trading down for more picks, this year the Saints got four REALLY good picks in the draft. Ane, while I hate the signing of Jameis Winston, the Saints are going to absolutely rock this year. If they can avoid being decimated by injuries, they are going to be THE team to beat in the NFL. So, there you have it. Who dat, indeed?!?!?]


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